Littlewoods National Camogie League Division 3 Group 2 Round 1
Limerick v Clare at Kilmallock, 2pm (John Horgan, Cork)
DRIVEN by a valid sense of injustice having been unceremoniously ejected from last year’s All-Ireland Premier Junior Champion-ship, Clare are determined to cherish every minute of this year’s season.
After contesting the 2019 All-Ireland Semi-Finals against eventual champions Kerry in Cusack Park, Clare harboured legitimate hopes of a historic breakthrough with their second team.
However, with the tightening of government restrictions dictating that only one team per county would be permitted to field in the All-Ireland Camogie Championships, the Banner’s 2020 hopes fell on stony ground.
Coming only days after a rousing opening group victory over Offaly, it was a devastating means of bowing out of the campaign according to joint-manager Ann-Marie McGann.
“It was quite a sickener I can tell you. We really thought that we could go far in the championship so to see Armagh winning it, a team that we had beaten the previous year with only 14 players, we definitely felt like we could have been there or thereabouts.
“The girls were very disappointed about that but you had to take it on the chin and last year was something that just happens in life and I think that it has kind of spurred them on this year.
“A lot of these players have been on the road for four years now so they’re very focused on making the best of things and that means hopefully making the most of the league.”
From player refusals in 2018 to having to extend their panel in 2021, the junior brand has now been firmly established under the guidance of McGann, Tim McGrath and Anne Marsh McMahon, with the logical next step being to maintain that upward devel-opment curve with some silverware.
Indeed, their squad has been bolstered by dual players Grainne Nolan and Carol O’Leary, fellow former senior Sarah Loughnane and emerging talents such as Sarah Ni Cheallaigh, Amy Russell and Caoimhe Kelly who have the distinction of populating both the senior and junior squads.
“This is probably the strongest panel that we’ve ever put together and I say that with a little trepidation in case it comes back to bite me in the long run,” McGann admits with a wry smile.
“In previous years we very much kept the panel small at around 24 or 26 because that way we could guarantee everyone game-time.
“But this year we wanted to play internal matches so for that we had to increase the panel and that obviously brings its own prob-lems as we’re going to have a lot of disappointed people when we start out against Limerick on Saturday.
“So that’s probably going to be quite a hard situation to manage this year but hopefully everyone is kind of understanding that you’re part of a panel and everyone will get their opportunity in training and challenges to be able to put their hand up for a jer-sey.”
With three matches in as many weeks against 2019 All-Ireland finalists Limerick, fellow second string Waterford and intermediate side Carlow, that squad depth could well be tested as Clare bid for one of two semi-final spots from the group.
“It’s a tough group but we’re really not focusing on any game other than the first one because we’re going down to face a rela-tively unknown Limerick in Kilmallock on Saturday.
“Under a new manager Pat Ryan, their senior and junior squads have a new lease of life and there are plenty of experienced players within their second team so we’ll have to be at our best to overcome that challenge and hopefully we can set down a marker for the road ahead.”
Clare Junior Camogie Panel: Kate O’Gorman (Kilkishen) (Captain); Louise Browne (Corofin), Kate Clancy (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Deanna Considine (Sixmilebridge), Regan Conway (Feakle/Killanena), Aoife Corey (Clarecastle), Rebecca Crowe (Ruan), Aoife Dillon (Broadford), Aoife Forde (Corofin), Aoife Griffin (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Ciara Halpin (Clooney-Quin), Caoimhe Kelly (Kilkishen), Emma Kennedy (Sixmilebridge), Siobhan Lenihan (Kilkishen), Sarah Loughnane (Sixmilebridge), Aleisha Malone (Corofin), Louise McDonnell (Ruan), Corina McMahon (Corofin), Niamh Mulqueen (Broadford), Chloe Neylon (Kilmaley), Grainne Nolan (Éire Óg), Finia O’Brien (Sixmilebridge), Eva O’Dea (Corofin), Ciara O’Dell (Clarecastle), Katie O’Flanagan (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Joanne O’Gorman (Kilkishen), Niamh O’Gorman (Kilkishen), Sinead O’Keeffe (Kilmaley), Carol O’Leary (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Tara O’Neill (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Suzy O’Shea (Ballyea), Olivia Phelan (Sixmilebridge), Sinead Power (Inagh-Kilnamona), Amy Russell (Éire Óg), Grace Russell (Clarecastle), Gillian Ryan (Tulla)
Ann-Marie McGann (Joint Manager), Tim McGrath (Joint-Manager), Anne Marsh McMahon (Selector), Eugene Foudy (Coach), Colum Devine (Goalkeeping Coach), Lauren Tuohy (Logistics), Bernard McMahon (Physio)
by Eoin Brennan